Originally created 03/09/99

Like, whatever happened to the Valley Girl?

LOS ANGELES -- The Sherman Oaks Galleria, nationally recognized cradle of the Valley Girl, is all, like, closing. Like, totally going out of business.

Ohmigod, is the Valley Girl dead, too?


And does anyone still talk like this?

Fer shure.

The Galleria, a cosmic bubble of gleaming escalators and 999,000 square feet of retail space, was immortalized in the 1980s teen flicks "Valley Girl" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

In 1982, Frank Zappa took his teen-age daughter, Moon Unit, into the recording studio, where she parodied the Val Speak slang and monotonous cadence of her schoolmates. "Valley Girls" became a best-selling single.

Sample lyric:

"Like, ohmigod! Like totally! Girls like the Galleria. And, like, all these, like, really great shoe stores."

The Galleria was the architectural icon of a teen-age generation conspicuous -- some say vacuous -- in its thirst for clothes, stereos and compact discs.

Now the mall is nearly deserted; a victim of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which forced it to close for repairs; repeated ownership changes; and failure to keep up with the times. The few stores still open are plastered with signs -- "Liquidation Sale. Everything must go." On April 1, the Galleria closes for an extensive overhaul.

It's scheduled to reopen in about two years, a reincarnation heavy on office space but also featuring 18 movie theaters and an open-air ground floor of nothing but restaurants. Not food-court, Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick outlets, but real, sit-down restaurants.

Among Western malls, the Galleria has become somewhat of a white elephant, an enclosed monolith whose only outside views come from skylights. Newer malls are more apt to feature stores with individual entrances, united by a street that fosters a feeling a community, retail experts say.

Besides all that, the Valley Girl has grown up.

"Right now she's 35 and about to be a senior partner in a downtown law firm. She's morphed into something much more important," says state historian Kevin Starr, a professor and author.

Starr disagrees with popular sentiment that Valley Girl equals vapid. He notes that presidential paramour Monica Lewinsky, once proclaimed a Valley Girl, was later described as savvy and composed after testifying at the impeachment trial of President Clinton.

"Valley Girls are nobody's saps. They're not seduced and abandoned. They're not sitting around waiting for someone to give them a life," Starr said. "She's done rather well for herself.

"She represents the triumph of the middle class," he added.

Or at least the triumph of the Chanel suit and matching chain-strap bag.

The entertainment industry, in the go-go decade of the 1980s, took life in the suburban San Fernando Valley and California's stereotype of cute-but-clueless and turned both into national phenomenons.

The etymology of "groddy," "groddy to the max," "gag me with a spoon," and "fer shure" trace to the Zappas' father-and-daughter collaboration.

Most terms are now horribly outdated, but there remain grown men and women who cannot construct a sentence without the word "like," as in "I'm, like, really mad." Nor can they avoid the double whammie of "like" and "all," as in "I'm all, like, really mad."

Occidental College public policy professor Peter Dreir says the Valley Girl has been replaced by the superficial but sensitive Cher of 1995's "Clueless," directed by Amy Heckerling, the woman who made "Fast Times," and based -- no way! -- on Jane Austen's "Emma."

"Even though she's from Beverly Hills, she's characterized as a Valley Girl, which means California airhead and conspicuous consumption," Dreir said of the "Clueless" heroine.

"But the 1990s are really very different from the 1980s. Teen-agers have to work now," he said. The Galleria and Valley Girls were the epitomes of an era in which "selfishness was celebrated."

Director Martha Coolidge, who made "Valley Girl," said she took her subject very seriously, spending lots of time researching the Galleria and the notion of what constitutes a Valley Girl.

"It's a way of escaping. It incorporates all the rebellion into consumerism," said Coolidge, who went on to a more auspicious career that peaked with 1991's Oscar-nominated "Rambling Rose."

"It was marked by a language that came from surfer talk, but it moved across the country. It became an ideal. That we are a nation of consumers is a fact."


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